Australia will introduce tough new laws in an attempt to crack down on child sex tourism in what the government has described as a “world first.”
In a statement, the Australian government said the new rules would ensure child sex offenders cannot travel “to vulnerable countries where they are out of sight and reach of Australian law.”
There are around 20,000 registered child sex offenders in Australia who have served their sentences but are still under supervision and subject to reporting obligations. Almost 800 traveled overseas in 2016, with more than one third doing so without permission, the statement said.
“Australia is leading the way when it comes to protecting vulnerable children overseas,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters.
The new laws, she said, would prevent convicted Australian pedophiles taking part in the “growing child sex tourism trade.”
“This is the strongest crackdown on child sex tourism ever. No country has ever taken such decisive and strong action to stop its citizens from going overseas, often to vulnerable countries, to abuse kids,” said Justice Minister Michael Keenan.
“We know that we’ll be denying passports to around 20,000 people who currently have reporting obligations … and about 2,500 will be added every year and we will continue to deny them passports whilst they have those reporting obligations.”
According to EPCAT, an NGO which campaigns against child sex tourism, there are more than two dozen countries where child sex tourism is prevalent, with the worst affected locations in South America and Southeast Asia.
UNICEF estimates two million children globally are effected by sexual exploitation every year, and the child sex trade is worth around $20 billion annually.
In 2016, an investigation by Australian police led to the arrest of British pedophile Richard Huckle, who posed as a Christian English teacher to groom and abuse children, including one as young as 6 months, throughout Southeast Asia.
A recent EPCAT report warned the problem has “expanded across the globe and out-paced every attempt to respond at the international and national level.”
“In an increasingly interconnected world, more people are on the move and even the most remote parts of the planet are now within reach, thanks to cheaper travel and the spread of the internet. As a result, the risks of child sexual exploitation are increasing,” the report said.